Disclaimer: Copyrights and extraorbitant legal fees prevent me from claiming anything as my own. -sniff-
The vampire strides silently through the darkened streets, her scent in his nostrils. Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, he follows her trail carefully. No one needs to know what he does this night. Not the Slayer, not her friends, and definitely not her enemies. Angel closes his eyes to focus. He can't think about anything else right now, or he will lose the scent.
It is fading, fast. She must have run. In a dark corner of his mind, he sees her sprinting ahead of him, but he cannot see her face. Is it angry? Betrayed? No, no. He must focus. Follow the scent, Angel. Follow the scent.
Now it leads him to the nicer part of town. Unsurprised, he weaves through abandoned alleys until he comes to a tall brick apartment building and a very convenient fire escape. Angel grins and shakes his head. Moving even more quietly than before, he scales the ladder. By the time the vampire reaches the roof, he has decided nothing about what he will say or even how he will say it.
For a moment he hesitates, debating. Then slowly he raises his head to look across the roof. The vampire can see straight in to her room. In fact, he can even see her. How strange. He hadn't expected it to be this easy. Angel swallows, sighs, then flips over the side of the roof. He lands and rolls to a stop. Freezing, he hopes he hasn't made too much noise. As a general rule, Angel is very sneaky. But if anyone could hear him, it would be her.
Luckily for him, she appears not to have noticed. He crouches in the darkness by the window and watches her storm around the room. She is furious, throwing a Slayer-sized temper tantrum. Angel can hear her cursing, a low, continuous stream of heated profanity. Even though he can't quite catch the words, he knows his name is in there somewhere. She has pulled her hair up since earlier tonight, but her clothes are the same. Red. Red like blood. He feels sick.
Time slowly passes. Her anger eventually gives way to hurt. She throws herself onto her bed and howls like the child she is. Angel turns his face away, unable to watch. No matter how he twists his head, he cannot escape the sound of her tears. His lip curls in distaste. Angelus would find a way inside, get his girl, and take off. Angel does not know what to do. Having a soul complicates things.
The moment he appears outside her window, Faith knows he is there. She can't see him; she doesn't need to. She just knows. Rage fills her. Why has he come? Hasn't enough damage been done for one night?
Faith slams her fists into her punching bag, visualizing Buffy and Angel's faces crumpling with every hit. Curses flow from her mouth. She picks things up from the floor – shoes, weapons, a hairbrush – and hurls them across the room, screaming. The effect is almost cathartic.
She knew she was betraying her friends, but to find out they were playing her in turn! At least she expected B's actions. She knows they were inevitable. But Angel? Faith has been completely blindsided. She still cannot believe he would lie to her. But he has, and that hurts worst of all.
When the rage runs out, she collapses on her bed, crying. She curls up in a little ball. Maybe that way she can hold in the pain.
And then he is there. She hears nothing – no footsteps, no breathing, no opening and closing of doors – and yet somehow, she knows he is there. How? Oh, d#$ it. She must have said something earlier tonight, flirting with Angelus. Something along the lines of "Maybe when we finish here, we could go over to my place." Classic, idiotic, stupid Faith.
Angel stares down at the limp girl on the bed. She won't look at him. He sits next to her and puts a hand on her shoulder.
That does it. Faith lurches up from the bed. Face scrunched up, she throws a wild punch at Angel's chin. He turns his head, and she misses by a mile. She gulps, still not meeting his gaze.
Sorrow in his eyes, Angel reaches out to touch her once more. She practically sits on him, burying her face in his shoulder, but he doesn't mind. Faith sobs, and her whole body shakes. Angel puts his arms around her. He knows this is wrong – wrong in Buffy's neat little sunlit world, anyway. But Angel doesn't see things Buffy's way. In his world, sharp distinctions rarely exist, and gray is the predominant color.
He feels Faith's heart beating, quick and irregular. Although slightly tempted, the vampire listens to it gratefully. At some point since he met Buffy, it has become his favorite sound. Proof that others are alive, even if he isn't.
Faith wraps her arms about Angel's neck, holding on for dear life. Tears leak from her eyes and soak his black shirt. His cold body is marvelously soothing against her fevered skin. To her surprise, one of his hands starts stroking her back gently. She should hate him; she doesn't. Slowly, all the resentment and anger and pain is draining out of her, leaving only gladness that Angel is there. He is her rock. Wrapped in his arms, Faith feels safe for the first time in weeks. Finally, she can breathe again.
Gradually the tears stop, but Faith and Angel sit there still. Thinking furiously, Faith struggles to plan her next move. Time and time again, however, her thoughts are interrupted by a persistent daydream. In it, Faith is a normal girl without blood on her hands, and Angel is her boyfriend. Not one of the guys she screws, a real, actual boyfriend. Faith knows it's a stupid dream. Still, when the dream leaves, all her horrid feelings come rushing back in. Rage, hurt, and a bitterness so strong it makes her throat burn. She forces herself to breathe slowly. Angel is still holding her; it will be all right. It has to be.
Angel doesn't say anything, just holds her. The girl's heartbeat has slowed. She appears calm, but he has learned not to trust appearances. Tense and wary, the vampire continues to hold her. For Angel suspects that once he lets go, things will never be the same again.
After a time, Faith lifts her head and pulls back. She licks her chapped lips, then glances up into Angel's face. He looks down at her, a quip about not being a tissue on the tip of his tongue. As their eyes meet, his smile fades.
She stands up and backs away. "We're enemies now."
Eyes locked, they stare at each other for a long while. Angel's are soft and sad; Faith's hard and resolved. Too late, they realize that together they have destroyed the one thing they both treasure: their friendship.
Finally Angel rises. He longs to go to Faith, to take her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. But the time for that is past. She has made her choice, and unless she changes her mind, there is nothing he can do. He walks to the door, his eyes still intent on hers.
I'll be there, he promises silently. Whenever you need me, whenever you want me, I'll be there.
Faith watches him go, arms folded tightly across her stomach. She thinks she is going to throw up. When Angel closes the door, she almost chases after him. Fear and regret and longing tumble around inside her, but in the end pride conquers all. Faith has chosen her path, and now there is no turning back.